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A U.S. woman was arrested at an airport in Australia after she arrived with a 24-karat gold-plated handgun in her luggage.
The woman, 28, whom authorities did not publicly identify, was arrested and charged shortly after she arrived at Sydney Airport from Los Angeles on Sunday, the Australian Border Force said in a news release.
The border force said that the woman had not declared the golden firearm and that she did not hold a permit to import or possess the weapon in Australia, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
The woman was charged under section 233BAB(5) of the Customs Act 1901, which says it is illegal for a person to “intentionally” import firearms without approval. If convicted, a person can face up to 10 years in prison, the border force said.
ABF Enforcement and Detained Goods East Commander Justin Bathurst credited the discovery to the diligence of border force officers and the use of sophisticated detection technology.
“Time and time again, we have seen just how good ABF officers are at targeting and stopping illegal, and highly dangerous, goods from crossing Australia’s border,” Bathurst said in the agency statement.
“The ABF is Australia’s first and most important line of defense,” he said. “ABF officers are committed to protecting our community by working with law enforcement partners to prevent items like unregistered firearms getting through at the border.”
The woman appeared before a local court Monday and was granted bail, the border force said. Her visa could be canceled, and she faces removal from Australia, depending on the outcome of the court proceedings, it said.
Gun safety advocates have long held up Australia’s gun laws as an example of a swift and effective national response to a major mass shooting.
The government ushered in sweeping gun legislation after the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, when a gunman opened fire on shop owners and tourists, killing 35 people.
In the wake of the shooting, Australia’s government banned all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and implemented a mandatory buy-back scheme that collected and destroyed more than 600,000 firearms.
Gun-related homicides in the country dropped by 7.5% a year after the reforms, while firearm-related suicides have also fallen, according to an Australian study.
Chantal Da Silva is a breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based in London.
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